Monday, June 29, 2009

See you in Hell, dead celebrities

From the Examiner:

What do Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson and Billy Mays all have in common?

The obvious answer to the question, of course, is that they are all dead now.

The less obvious answer to many - think atheists, is that these four folks are all giving an account for their lives now...or not, if you are an atheist.

I do not presume to judge any of these four individuals. I don't know their outcome nor do I want to be the judge to determine their eternal destiny.

Something to consider.

Suppose a person were to live his/her entire life thinking there was a personal God and it was his/her responsiblity to love that God and love their neighbor. Then upon death they learned they were wrong and there was no God. Nothing loss, nothing gained. Right? Just a meaningful life filled with love and devotion.

Now suppose that same person thought there is no God and s/he just went about life doing whatever. Then upon death s/he learned s/he was wrong and there really was a God. Serious problem, no?

The short of it - it just makes sense (and for goodness sake this is not the only reason) to believe in a personal God.

I hope to meet Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson and Billy Mays some day. That would mean they are with God, right? I know where I'll spend eternity. Do you?

How are you preparing for the eventuality of death?
As all of you surely know, there are two kinds of people in the world: hard-line evangelical Christians, and atheists. All Christians believe in salvation and are therefore either going to Heaven or ceasing to exist when they die. All atheists believe in nothing and are therefore either ceasing to exist or going to Hell when they die. End of story.

Except, no. First of all, I don't think it's particularly Christ-like to use the dead in this manner. In fact, I looked, and Jesus never said anything along the lines of "these people who just died are super fucked if they didn't believe the right thing. FYI." I would imagine the reason He didn't say that was primarily because He, unlike Bill Belew (the author of this editorial) was not petty.

There is, ultimately, only one reality that we can definitively know to be true, and that is the one in which we are living now. We cannot know if there is an afterlife (at least not at the moment). While we can believe that there is a Heaven and that there is a God, we cannot prove these things. It therefore makes little sense to waste the life we know we have following arbitrary rules about morality and paying homage to a God of whom we are not worthy. I do not believe that God would want that. I find it unlikely that an all-powerful, ever-loving God would give a flying fuck whether we're "born again," whether we've atoned for our sins, or whether we've spent our lives worshiping any god, let alone the one human idea of Him that must be the correct one. I mean, really, can any human idea of God be the correct one? We are limited beings, and we can't prove anything. All we can do is believe in the idea of God that makes the most sense to us and acknowledge the possibility that we're wrong. If that lands us in Hell, then some kind of rebellion needs to happen because clearly God is an evil dictator.

To suggest that God revealed all His truth, which is necessary for salvation, to a particular incarnation of one of many religions, is to suggest that God is cruel. To suggest that important parts of the natural world - such as human sexuality - are sinful is to suggest that God is imperfect. In short, to suggest that belief in fundamentalism, of any kind, is the only path to salvation is insulting to God. And really, the only reason to believe in that kind of God (besides tradition) is fear. Blasphemous though it may sound to some, there is no room for fear in my faith.

Exodus 3:13-14 says:
Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"

God said to Moses, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'
He is who He is, Bill. Let's leave dead people alone. WTFWJD?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The growing voice of the religious left

Two important things regarding Christian liberalism have come through my inbox recently. The first is a study from The Barna Group, which says:

Although most adults affirm the importance of faith in their life, regardless of their sexual orientation, straight adults (72%) were more likely than gay adults (60%) to describe their faith as “very important” in their life. And even though most Americans consider themselves to be Christian, there is a noticeable gap between heterosexuals who self-identify that way (85%) compared to homosexuals (70%). Another gap was then noted among those who say they are Christian: about six out of ten heterosexuals say they are absolutely committed to the Christian faith, compared to about four out of ten among homosexuals.

And even though a majority of adults have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in your life today,” such a relationship was more common among non-gays (75%) than among gay adults (58%). The research also revealed that straight adults were nearly twice as likely as gays to qualify as born again Christians (47% compared to 27%, respectively).
Now, The Barna Group, from what I can tell, is a pretty conservative organization. They have a bias, so they've tried to spin this research to say that the gay community is less religious than the other 97% of the population (which, if this data is to be believed, it is). That said, what I see here still constitutes a majority. A majority of American homosexuals are Christian. A majority of American homosexuals do not identify as "born again", likely due to the fact that those who do are often (not always) closed-minded, partisan bigots. But still, a majority believe in God, and the Bible (to whatever degree they see fit), and Jesus Christ. These people - these 60% of 3% - make up an important part of the religious left. Assuming that gay Christians have mostly found churches that accept and embrace gay Christians means assuming that gay Christians are members of churches that also accept and embrace other important things, like science, birth control, and universalism. This is good news.

The second item is a column from the LSU Daily Reville, which says:
Any student who has taken an Intro to Philosophy course at the University is aware of the logical fallacy of “false dichotomy.” This fallacy arises when an argument is posed in which only two options are made available, when in fact more exist.

In the quest to determine where life comes from, a thinking person is often faced with a false dichotomy. Either they must accept evolution and discard the belief in a creator God, or they must maintain faith in creation and ignore the findings of science.

But there are more than just these two options.

Although it is true to a certain extent that evolutionary theory casts a shadow of doubt on the notion of a world created in six days, the two are by no means completely incompatible. Just because you are a rational, scientific person does not mean you must immediately disqualify your faith.
Yes. Yes yes yes. This is is a key point to the ongoing debate about religion and science. Nearly every branch of Christianity outside of evangelical fundamentalism recognizes the different kinds of truth represented by science and the Scripture. The Christian right, however, have taken on this issue (as they have so many others) and presented it as Jesus vs. Science. The fact that so many Christians believe in evolution is irrelevant to them, because those Christians aren't actually Christian.

But, I do not believe that these people are a majority. And, if they are, it is partially due to the fact the religious moderates and liberals have not made our voices heard with the same veracity. There are liberals in the public square who are also Christian, of course. But they are liberals first, Christians second (which is fine). What we need is to make our presence known not as liberals who are Christian, but as Christians who are liberal. No, not to silence the fundies or convert the atheists, but to show those who are confused and/or uninformed about all their options that the battle between the Christian right and the secular left is a false dichotomy. I'm pretty sure that's WTF Jesus would do.

Hump day giggle

From Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:

I think that about sums it up.

(Thanks to Christopher for the link!)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Is this who they're shooting at?


I do not know much about the man whose supporters are rallying in the streets of Tehran. I know he promises change, which the people seem to want; he promises equal rights for women, which, one assumes, we all want; and he seems to be quite the political strategist, which I can respect. With all this in mind, I think I like him. It's hard not to like a man who (perhaps not single-handedly) has inspired the people of his country to rise up for democracy and freedom. Mousavi's supporters are solid proof not only of the resilient and brave nature of humanity, but also of the fact that belief in God can inspire as much good as bad. Their freedom cry, "Allah Akbar," takes on a very different meaning than it would in the west. In America, "God is great" is, in essence, the call of the right. It is the call of those who want to deny and prevent freedoms. In Iran, however, it is a call for social justice. It's easy for me to see whose idea of God more closely resembles my own.

But, back to Mousavi. I've been feeling tentatively positive about this man, but have tried to reserve judgment as I do not have the background knowledge (nor the ability to see the future) that I would need to assess his quality as a leader and as man. That was, of course, until I saw this:

Mir Hossein Mousavi's "The Queen's Park" (1972)

And read this:
A believer that art plays a secondary role to political engagement, Mousavi once wrote that “the paint brush will never take the place of the communal struggle for freedom. It must be said that the expressive work of any painter or artist will not minimize the need to perform his social responsibilities. Yet it is within the scope of these responsibilities that his art can provide a vision for a way of living in an alternative future.”
And now one thing has become abundantly clear: I like this man. I want him to be a world leader. I want him to speak for the people of Iran. I want him to win. Allah Akbar.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I hope you understand that I am currently unable to blog, talk, or think about anything but Iran

So, we'll return to our regular programming when this situation ends or comes to a standstill. In the meantime, here is a moving letter from Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, an Iranian religious leader (via Andrew Sullivan):

In the name of God

People of Iran

These last days, we have witnessed the lively efforts of you brothers and sisters, old and 210px-Montazeri young alike, from any social category, for the 10th presidential elections.

Our youth, hoping to see their rightful will fulfilled, came on the scene and waited patiently. This was the greatest occasion for the government’s officials to bond with their people.

But unfortunately, they used it in the worst way possible. Declaring results that no one in their right mind can believe, and despite all the evidence of crafted results, and to counter people protestations, in front of the eyes of the same nation who carried the weight of a revolution and 8 years of war, in front of the eyes of local and foreign reporters, attacked the children of the people with astonishing violence. And now they are attempting a purge, arresting intellectuals, political opponents and Scientifics.

Now, based on my religious duties, I will remind you :

1- A legitimate state must respect all points of view. It may not oppress all critical views. I fear that this lead to the lost of people’s faith in Islam.

2- Given the current circumstances, I expect the government to take all measures to restore people’s confidence. Otherwise, as I have already said, a government not respecting people’s vote has no religious or political legitimacy.

3- I invite everyone, specially the youth, to continue reclaiming their dues in calm, and not let those who want to associate this movement with chaos succeed.

4- I ask the police and army personals not to “sell their religion”, and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before god. Recognize the protesting youth as your children. Today censor and cutting telecommunication lines can not hide the truth.

I pray for the greatness of the Iranian people.
Those of us who pray should all pray for that.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Of all the images I've seen today of the revolution in Iran...

...This photo, of a protester rescuing an injured riot policeman from the crowd, is the most meaningful.

That's definitely what Jesus would do.

Friday, June 12, 2009

What? Politics? ME? Neverrrr...

From Fox News:

The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., says he's a man of God, not a lobbyist. But state officials say he's both.

According to the Connecticut Office of State Ethics, the diocese acted as a lobbying organization in March when it rented buses to transport people to a rally in Hartford — the state capital — to protest a bill that would have granted more power to parishioners regarding church finances.

Officials also are investigating whether the church acted as a lobbying organization on its Web site when it urged parishioners to contact lawmakers about the bill, which eventually was withdrawn amid public outcry, and about a another bill to legalize same-sex marriage, which was signed into law in April.

Now the ethics office is "evaluating" whether the diocese failed to register as a lobbyist — an investigation that Bishop William Lori says violates the diocese's First Amendment right to free speech and assembly.

"I don't know what the motive of the Office of State Ethics was or is, but I do know that their actions stem directly from our attempts to defend ourselves in the face of two pieces of legislation that were unfriendly to the day-to-day mission of the church," Lori told on Thursday.
According to this article, if an organization spends more than $2000 a year directly contacting (or asking people to directly contact) people in public office and the like, they are a lobby, and must register or pay fines up to $10,000. This Diocese did indeed spend more than $2000 directly contacting (or asking people to directly contact) people in public office. According to Bishop Lori, that doesn't make the Diocese a lobby. They were merely standing up against legislation that directly affected them.

Except, of course, that legalizing gay marriage has no direct effect on the Catholic Church, as they are by no means obligated to provide, or even condone gay marriages, or homosexuality in general. So that, once again, is a clear case of an organization attempting to force their personal values on a larger group of people (sounds like a lobby to me). Then there's the amazing fact that the Bishop actually managed to get his parishioners to protest "a bill that would have granted more power to parishioners regarding church finances." I realize that's not really how the Catholic Church does things, but I still can't believe a group of Catholic lay people really sat there and went "that's OUTRAGEOUS. We'll go put a stop to that right away."

The Connecticut Office of State Ethics needs to have some balls on this one and declare the Diocese a lobby. It's high time that churches learned to draw the line between God and Politics. I realize that the Church ruled the West for a very long time. But under their rule an unbelievable amount of suffering occurred (and not too much progress). They fell from power because they should never have had it to begin with, nor should they have it now. Religious organizations do not belong in politics. They belong in Churches and, more importantly, in soup kitchens, and homeless shelters, and food banks...

Matthew 19:16-21 says:
Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."

"Which ones?" the man inquired.

Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"

Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

Luke 14:12-14 says:
Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Imagine what that Diocese could have done if they'd devoted their time and energy to helping others. And the funny thing is, I couldn't find anything in the Bible about political lobbying. Bishop Lori, WTF would Jesus do?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Who gave Glenn Beck a TV show?

We all know that the only people who watch this show are nutcases (or people like me who enjoy being upset). Telling them that they are under attack (when, in reality, they are the ones who end up doing the attacking) is not only irresponsible, but an act of aggression against regular citizens. Telling a crazy, armed fundie that he needs to be on the lookout for terrorists - "both foreign and domestic" - is the same as telling him to see threats that are not there. And who can tell me what happens when crazy, gun-toting, racist Bible-thumpers get paranoid?

Yep. They go and shoot up the Holocaust Museum (or similar). Awesome.

By the way, my favorite line was:
This is not the work of right-wing conservatives. This is the work of somebody today who is racist, crazy, or most likely both.

What he said

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"If somebody's on his way to hell, you've got to love him to rescue him"

Really, where do they get this stuff? We've all read Leviticus (inspired by my constant bitching, my dad read it cover to cover the other day. He was unimpressed), so we've all heard that homosexuality - much like shellfish, pork, and everything else that's delicious - is an "abomination before God." Except, of course, that the Bible doesn't say that. In Leviticus, what's condemned is behavior, not sexual orientation. There is a difference.

Leviticus 18:22 says:

Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
Leviticus 20:13 says:
If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
Those verses are, as always on WTFWJD?, from the NIV. What I find interesting is that they chose not to use the word 'abomination,' unlike so many other versions of the Bible. I find this interesting, of course, because I once heard that the ancient Hebrew had no word for 'abomination.' So, one hopes that 'detestable' is more accurate to the original meaning of the text, though I think it mostly irrelevant, because I think Leviticus mostly irrelevant to modern-day life. In fact, I find it 'detestable.'

Matthew 15:1-11 says:
Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!"

Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,' he is not to 'honor his father' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
" 'These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.'"

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen and understand. What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.' "

What does this story say to you? Because to me, it is not only a complete nullification of Leviticus (which is primarily concerned with what makes a person 'unclean'), but it also says that church leaders get too caught up on the specifics, and forget that Jesus didn't give a shit who was gay (St. Paul may have, but he clearly had some issues about sex). He only cared about how people treated each other. And furthermore, who could ever make the claim that one is bound to an illogically serious sin (in relation to other sins, particularly considering the small amount of condemnation actually devoted to it in the Bible) because of the experience of child abuse?

Pat Roberts to gay teenager: "I love you. God loves you. But, because you were abused as a child, you will have to continually fight who you actually are for the rest of your life until you either find away to live dead or just kill yourself, otherwise your totally going to hell."

Gay teenager to Pat Roberts: "..."

Doesn't make any fucking sense, Pat. WTFWJD?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Catholics to Episcopals: WE ARE IN A FIGHT! I'M TELLING GOD ON YOU!!!

From the American Spectator:

A tabloid exposé of a celebrity (now former) Catholic priest's cavorting with his bikini-clad consort on the sands of a Florida beach has ignited an ecumenical brouhaha between the Catholic Archdiocese of Miami and the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida.

"This truly is a serious setback for ecumenical relations and cooperation between us," observed Archbishop of Miami John Favalora about a May 28 press conference featuring the smooching priest and his new supervising prelate, Episcopal Bishop of Southeast Florida Leo Frade. "The Archdiocese of Miami has never made a public display when for doctrinal reasons Episcopal priests have joined the Catholic Church and sought ordination. In fact, to do so would violate the principles of the Catholic Church governing ecumenical relations. I regret that Bishop Frade has not afforded me or the Catholic community the same courtesy and respect."

Guess what else came up in my news feed today (from the Omaha World-Herald):

Among the three men new to the Roman Catholic priesthood in Nebraska is one with a wife, four children and several grandchildren.

Bishop William Dendinger says the Rev. Sidney Bruggeman is believed to be the first married Nebraska man to join the priesthood.

Bruggeman, 52, was ordained Friday with two other men, the first ordinations in the diocese in five years.

. . . .

He had been a minister for the Disciples of Christ Christian Church before he and his family converted to Catholicism about 15 years ago. His children are adults.

This is actually unusual - not that this story came up in my news feed today, but that it wasn't about a priest who was originally Episcopalian. I get Google news alerts every day for a bunch of Christianity-related words, including "priest." I usually see a news headline at least once a month about a married Catholic priest who was Episcopalian. Unless these conversions happen with far greater frequency than I see in the news (which I highly doubt), the Catholic Church makes no effort whatsoever to keep these things from the press out of respect for the Episcopalians.

And what does that whole respect thing mean, anyway? It's not exactly a contest. The Catholic Church calls for priestly celibacy. This guy was not only not being celibate, but was caught. The Church gave him the choice to leave them or leave her. Is anyone really surprised that this is what he chose?

Also, as far as I'm concerned, any Episcopal who converts to Catholicism is taking a serious step down. The Episcopals, out of all the major denominations of Christianity in the United States, are totally the coolest. Their priests can get married, be women, or be totally gay and it's all cool. Catholic priests, however, can only get away with getting laid if they do it with a little boy. That's not really something that's going to appeal to most people.

Matthew 7:3-5 says:

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Catholics, you guys have got a serious eye-plank happening here. WTFWJD?


(From Dan Gurewitch)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Just a thought

What Pope Nazipants thought about the investigation into priestly child abuse in Ireland (from Fox News):

"He was very visibly upset, I would say, to hear of some of the things that are told in the Ryan report, how the children had suffered from the very opposite of an expression of the love of God."
I started to think this the first time I actually heard His Holiness speak, and he sounded so frail and troubled: maybe the pope isn't actually a douchebag. Perhaps he actually means well, but just doesn't get it. I realize some of you may have come to this conclusion earlier than I have, but you are all much nicer people than I am. I feel kind of bad for him. Being pope must be a crap job.


I'm going to university in the fall. I attempted this once before, but the results were not so positive. The biggest difference (and there are many) between my situation now and my situation then is that I now know what I want to do with my life. For the next few years, anyway.

As you may or may not know, going to university, before it makes you rich, makes you very poor. As such, I am making a shameless appeal for you to help me out a bit. As you may have noticed, there is a widget on the side of my blog that displays books I recommend from Amazon. I make a small percentage if you purchase any of those books by linking from this page.

I realize this is super lame, but if any of you are looking for a good book to read, these are all really interesting, and you'd be doing us both a favor by purchasing them via said normally ignorable widget.

Thanks a lot guys. I promise to not do this almost ever again.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Friday, June 5, 2009

Don't be deceived by teh gays!!

A recent Gallup poll found something logical to be true: people who know gay people are more likely to support gay marriage than people who don't.

Of course, this has elicited an equally predictable response from the Christian right. From the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission:

According to Gallop [sic], “While 57% of Americans oppose legalizing gay marriage, Americans who personally know someone who is gay or lesbian are almost evenly divided on the matter, with 49% in favor and 47% opposed. Among those who do not personally know anyone who is gay, 72% oppose legalized gay marriage while just 27% favor it.”

Who you allow into your life, and especially that of your children, really matters. The Apostle Paul said it this way, “Don’t be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals (1 Cor.15:33, NASB).

The natural human tendency is to be deceived in situations when we associate with openly sinful people. Human sentimentality kicks in and biblical thinking is set aside. We rationalize and justify behaviors in people we know more than in people we don’t.

This applies to more than homosexuality; it touches other sins as well. Of course, because there is a powerful deceptive dynamic you will be tempted to say, “Having close relationships with the ungodly will not affect me.” Don’t be deceived!

. . .

Proverbs 13:20 warns, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.” (NKJV)
OK, so first off, we've got the curious fact that whoever wrote this used two different versions of the Bible for his quotes. I wonder why that could be. According to the New American Standard Bible (the one quoted above), 1 Corinthians 15:33 says:
Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals."
In the New King James Version, however, it says:
Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
Well, morals are clearly way worse things to have corrupted than habits, so it's pretty obvious why he chose the NASB version for that particular verse. But why the NKJV for the next? Perhaps because the NKJV version of Proverbs 13:20 says:
He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will be destroyed.
Whereas in the NASB, it reads:
He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will suffer harm.
So there you have it. The douche who wrote this article wants to make sure his minions know that if they hang out with homos, they'll have their morals corrupted and will be destroyed (not have their habits corrupted and suffer harm), even if it takes him 57 versions of the Bible to prove it. I'm sorry, but that's total bullshit. These are the same people who claim that everyone who doesn't understand the Scripture the way they do is either reading it wrong or willfully corrupting people. They cannot expect to promote themselves as true followers of the Bible while willfully picking and choosing not only which verses they follow, but which versions they quote, all to suit their own ends (which, by the way, bear little to no similarity to the moral ideas espoused by Christ).

Mark 5:27-32 says:
After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"

Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Now, don't misunderstand me. I do not believe for one second it is a sin to be gay. Just want to clarify that. But these people do, and still they break the commandments of the Man they claim to follow. Jesus didn't go around avoiding people, or even telling his followers to avoid people, for fear they might be morally corrupted. Hell, He wasn't even afraid of leprosy. The guy was a champion of the downtrodden. He was a champion of the people whom his conservative, religious society excluded. I find it amazing that so many Christians do not see the parallels between the time of Christ and today's American society. Can they really claim that Jesus would go around avoiding anyone, even if He did believe them to be sinners?

Clearly they can, but clearly they're wrong. WTFWJD?


What do you think about these ad campaigns from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that have been cropping up around the country?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Freedom Ain't Free

From the American Daily Review (by Warner Todd Huston):

Liberty University, a Christian college situated near Lynchburg, Virginia and founded in 1971 by Jerry Falwell, has this week decertified its college Democratic Party club over the singular fact that the National Democratic Party is a supporter of abortion.
Liberty University, huh? Before we get to the Bible, let's look at Websters' definition of Liberty:
The state of a free person; exemption from subjection to the will of another claiming ownership of the person or services; freedom; -- opposed to slavery, serfdom, bondage, or subjection.
So here we have yet another example of the Christian right modifying the meaning of a word to suit their liking. Apparently, to Jerry Falwell and his kind, "liberty" means the freedom to do what the Christian right says it's OK to do. And if you think that's classy, check out the next sentence after the previously quoted news blurb:
After the debacle of allowing a president that is a supporter of infanticide being invited to speak at the leading Catholic University in the nation, I can only say that Liberty University should be congratulated for standing up for its principles. At least these Baptists actually believe in something unlike the putative Catholics at Notre Dame.
That's pure class, Huston. But I'm sure you don't think much of Catholics anyway, despite your generally similar ideas on abortion. After all, Catholics believe in things like Tradition, infant baptism, and the importance of Good Works. You believe only in Salvation - oh, and that women are second-class citizens who are not entitled to make decisions regarding their own bodies - oh, and that gay people are evil-doers who choose their sexual orientation with the singular purpose of pissing off God. Way to stick it to the "putative Catholics", you putative human being.

Lest you think this whole thing is as offensive as it gets, here's what Mark Hine, the vice-president of student affairs at Liberty University had to say:
“The Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of Liberty University and to Christian doctrine (supports abortion, federal funding of abortion, advocates repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, promotes the “LGBT” agenda, hate crimes, which include sexual orientation and gender identity, socialism, etc.)”

The decision had been made that from this point on the students could not use campus meeting rooms and could not use the university’s name in advertising or functions. Hines also warned the students that violations of these new strictures could lead to reprimands that would ultimately end in expulsion.

Now, to the school's (minor) credit, they did amend their decision to allow the students to continue to meet on campus. But that does nothing to change the heart of this issue. What I find particularly amazing is that Hine calls the platform of the Democratic party "contrary to Christian doctrine." How is it, then, that there are so many Christians in the Democratic party? In fact, the majority of the politicians in Washington are Christian. A majority of them (at the moment) are also Democrats. Could it be that Christianity may have different meanings to different people? Is it possible that one particular group of Christians is out of line in claiming ownership of the title? To outsiders it may seem that Christian means "gun-toting medieval backwoods bigoted asshole", but that's because those are the kind of people who are willing to ignore passages like Matthew 6:1-6, which says:

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
In favor of verses like Exodus 21:22, which says:
If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows.
Which, as we've already discussed, doesn't condemn abortion as soundly as the Christian right would have us believe.

Perhaps Hine's issue with the Democrats is that they (in general) believe in the importance of verses like Luke 14:12-14, which says:
Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind . . .
But don't (in general) set too much importance on verses like Leviticus 18:22, which says:
Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
Another major difference between the Republican and Democratic parties, is that Republicans tend to make a big show of their Christianity (See Matthew 6:1-6), using it as a political tool, whereas Democrats tend toward espousing the vital importance of the separation of church and state, and seem to have less difficulty seeing the difference between what is good for a country and what is a matter of personal faith. To ally a religion so closely with a political party is dangerous and (dare I say it?) downright wrong. I can understand how a person who is genuinely pro-life would have problems supporting a pro-choice political candidate, but I cannot see how that same person would have no qualms about supporting a candidate who is pro-war, opposed to national health care (opposition to national health care is, in my opinion, a form of murder), and believes in the vital importance of keeping poor, uneducated people poor and uneducated. Those are not Christian values. I would venture to say that some, if not all, of the ideas in modern socialism have stronger support from the Scripture than free-market capitalism. After all, Jesus helped the poor and healed the sick. Wouldn't a reformed education system, better public housing and transit, and a quality national health care system do the same? And since we're on the subject, does anyone else think it likely that fewer abortions would take place if these things existed (not to mention the positive effect realistic sex-education would have)?

No, it's pretty clear to me that while the Republican party, by and large, is Christian in name, the Democratic party is, by and large, Christian in action. But, of course, it's all a matter of personal faith and politics. Even so, a religious organization has no business playing this kind of politics. Advocate for issues, not parties. WTFWJD?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Why Catholics aren't as Catholic as the Catholic Church thinks they are

Random, possibly unfounded theory: Catholics often have views on morality, society, and God that are unsupported by the Church itself because they are taught from a young age how the Church has taken liberties with the meaning of the scripture, so they feel they can do the same.


Monday, June 1, 2009

A study of Biblical hatred

So, as you may have heard, Dr. George Tiller, a prominent abortion doctor, was murdered in his Church on Sunday. The whole story is unbelievably tragic - so much so that anti-abortion groups are scrambling to condemn the incident. Of course, prominent "pro-life" groups could never condone such an unspeakable act. To be "pro-life" is to oppose murder (albeit those who use that title have a broader definition of the word "murder" than some of us). Murder is wrong. That's easy. It's everywhere in the Bible, in reality, and in our hearts (assuming we aren't violent sociopaths). Murder is wrong. Done.

So who is Scott Roeder, the suspect in the George Tiller murder?

The 51-year-old resident of Merriam, Kansas has a record as a fanatical anti-abortion activist, who had made at least one other threat against an abortion provider. And he also has had ties to the a violent right-wing extremist group that came to prominence in the 1990s.

Roeder believed in "justifiable homicide" -- that is, that it's OK to kill those who facilitate abortions -- according to another anti-abortion activist, Regina Dinwiddie.

. . .

When Roeder was arrested yesterday, he was driving a blue 1993 Ford Taurus. In the rear window of the car was a red rose -- a symbol often used by anti-abortion activists -- and on the back his car was a silver fish symbol with the word "Jesus" inside.
When things like this happen, I can't help but think about the commonly-made atheist claim that religion is the cause of most, if not all, of the world's violence. It's one I've argued against time and again. "It's people who are the problem," I say, "not religion itself." But when something like this happens, it starts to look like these claims are more founded in reality than I would like to believe.

Matthew 5:43-48 says:
You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
To me, this passage is simple enough to understand. Jesus wants us to love each other, even those we find morally reprehensible. It's a good message - not a message of hate. But, as you may have noticed, there's a curious movement in Christian fundamentalism toward the re-definition of what used to be simple words. "We are called to love all people," they say, "but God hates sinners, and so we need to warn them that their actions are taking them straight to hell."

Leviticus 19:17 says:
Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.
Leviticus. We meet again, you dirty scoundrel. Look at you, poisoning the minds of the right-wing fanatics. Is Leviticus the Greek word for "convenient theories for modern-day assholes"? Because that would make sense. How fitting that this idea, this bastardization of the word "love", would come from that book. And, as we all know, there is no better authority on the words and will of Jesus Christ than the book of Leviticus. That's for damn sure.

But pieces are still missing. There's lots of passages in the Bible about stuff God hates. According to Proverbs 6:17-19, God hates haughtiness, lies, murder, and the doing of evil. But what I can't seem to find in the Bible is any mention of God hating people. Perhaps I've missed something, but it just doesn't seem to be in there. Not even in the book of "Convenient Theories for Modern-Day Assholes" could I find any mention of God hating anyone. A funny thing, then, that faith groups who claim to live by the Bible would espouse an idea that is completely fabricated: the idea that God hates people.

Now, this may seem like a small thing. To say that love means warning your neighbors that God hates them is a justification for evangelism, which is annoying but isn't murder. Why, then, is it relevant to this story? What's the big deal?

Hopefully we all know the answer to that question. Of all the words I can think of, the only one that evokes a stronger emotional reaction than the word 'love' is 'hate.' 'Hate' is a dangerous and powerful word. It appears relatively rarely in the Bible - a mere 128 times (as opposed to the 697 times the word 'love' occurs). Even so, the word has become such a vital part of modern-day Christian fundamentalism that, to outsiders, the two ideas are inseparable. According to them, God hates fags, democrats, black people, immigrants, America, terrorists, Sweden, Obama, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, women, foreign-made vehicles, modern medicine, and, of course, abortions, the people who provide them, and the women who receive them. These claims, made by people who profess strict allegiance to the scripture, are not founded in it. They do not come from what these people claim is the exact word of God, unless you've been reading the book of "Convenient Theories That Aren't Even In the Bible So I Just Made Them Up."

I'm generally no fan of conspiracy theories, but it's hard for me to understand the existence of Christian fundamentalism without seeing it as little more than a way to control stupid people. It's really brilliant for that, actually. You get a bunch of stupid, uneducated people really angry, give them a list of people God "hates", then send them on their merry way with the idea that they'll go scare a bunch of other stupid, uneducated people into joining the cult. Oops, I meant "club." But with all those stupid, uneducated people you're riling up, there's bound to be a couple of loose cannons who hear the word 'hate' and get extra mad. After all, it's easy to kill sinners when you've got God on your side.

Ten out of ten pro-life groups agree: murder is wrong. But inciting hatred in the hearts and minds of the ignorant is dangerous, and this is what it leads to. No definition of the word 'love' can include hatred. Love is not complicated. It does not mean "love the sinner, hate the sin," and it certainly does not mean "hate the sinner." Nor does it justify murder.

1 Corinthians 13 says:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

This chapter, which I've quoted before and will undoubtedly quote again, describes most accurately the God I know. It describes most accurately the Christ I know. Every day it becomes clearer to me that the Christian Right and I do not share the same God. What some atheists say about religion - that it incites violence - is true of fundamentalism (in every religion I can think of). To play people's passions without teaching them how to think for themselves is dangerous, and can have unintended consequences (I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt by saying these consequences were unintended). I do not for one second believe that this man's actions, nor the actions of those who instilled this violent hatred in him are anywhere near the actions of a Christ-like person. These people ruin lives, by murder and other means; they sow misery and fear in the hearts of those who don't know any better; and they give the rest of us a bad name.

So, Christian Right, is what you're doing really WTF Jesus would do?


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